Essex County Fire and Rescue Service


Fire Service staff member awarded British Empire Medal

Paul Pemberton BEM, Impairment and Disability Officer at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to hearing impaired people in Essex.

Paul’s amazing medal achievement was announced in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list earlier this year, in recognition for his work with people with hearing loss, who are unable to communicate by phone, websites or hear alarms, those who are at most risk in a fire.

Paul was presented with his British Empire Medal on behalf of the Queen by the Lord-Lieutenant of Essex Mrs Jennifer Tolhurst at a special socially distanced investiture ceremony at County Hall, Chelmsford, on Friday, 11 September.  Paul’s mum, Linda, had the honour to accompany him on his special day.

Paul said: ”I joined the fire service as a firefighter in 1994, my sole driving force to become a firefighter was to help people. In 2013, by chance I clicked on a website regarding sign language, this was my ‘eureka’ moment, it got me thinking, how does our fire service communicate and deliver fire safety messages to our deaf community? From that moment on I joined a sign language course, and over a short period of time I completed and passed the exams in level 1,2 and 3 for British Sign Language.

“In 2014, I put my ideas to the Service forward on how to reach and engage with the deaf community and as a result of the successful outcomes I then began my role as our Service Impairment and Disability Officer.  In the last seven years I have worked with so many people in our Service and with partner agencies and leaders in the sensory loss environment to get our Service to where we are today by helping to keep those with sensory loss safer in their homes.”

Paul added: “I was very honoured and humbled to be awarded the British Empire Medal, it was so unexpected.  When I started on this journey and learning sign language, I only ever wanted to help others and make them safer.  I really could not have achieved what I have without the support and help of everyone in our Service and the partner agencies.  It really has been a one team effort and I thank my colleagues.”

Jo Turton, Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive said: “Firstly, congratulations Paul and well done. This is a marvellous achievement and your service to others has been rightly recognised. Thank you for commitment and your ideas which have helped to make our communities safer. You are a true inspiration and have shown how much can be achieved when you’re passionate about something.”

Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “On behalf of the people of Essex, I would like to wish Paul many congratulations on being awarded the British Empire Medal.

“Paul represents everything that is good about Essex. In his current role he helps some of the most vulnerable people in our community at their time of need. He has gone above and beyond to help and support those who are living with disabilities and other impairments, including hearing difficulties, keeping them safe and preventing them from coming to harm. Well done and thank you for making such a difference to people’s lives.”

In celebration of Paul’s award, he has been invited to attend The Queen’s Garden Parties in London next year.

Pictured: left to right – Paul Pemberton BEM, Paul’s mum-Linda and Lord-Lieutenant of Essex Mrs Jennifer Tolhurst.

Page last updated 5 October, 2020

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